In 2016, after over a half century of fighting, the communist group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) gave up. The revolutionaries had hidden in the Andes-Amazon region and the occupied rainforest remained under-developed for obvious violent reasons: if you want to have a successful takeover, you can't make people happier, you have to make them miserable and hope they blame the government. 

It didn't work, and instead simply created multi-generational terrorism. The only winner during the attempted overthrow was, strangely, the environment, according to a new paper.

With peace sort-of occurring (FARC militias continue to terrorize some parts of the countryside) it was time to rebuild a nation and that meant making basic necessities like food and energy more affordable. To do that often means clearing space in places that otherwise just hold giant insects. 

Land-use changes during and following the insurrection in Colombia in relation to locations of conflict in the Andes-Amazon region. Graphic courtesy Paulo J. Murillo-Sandoval.

And it happened. The new analysis finds there has been a 40 percent increase in conversion from forest to food use in the post-conflict period, and the authors, some in large American cities and some in large Colombian ones, lament that in the peace accord itself protection for the Andes-Amazon Transition Belt was not included.

Their satellite land map results cause them to worry that where fighting was most intensive, land was cleared. This is so tone deaf to people actually living there it's a little surprising; in Oregon, Washington, and even Bogotá they'd rather have trees than people who live there not being shot from behind them?

They claim moral high ground, saying they don't just statistically link the peace dividend to environmental destruction, the way Harvard School of Public Health epidemiologists link every food and chemical to endocrine disruption or longevity, they insist it's causal: peace in Colombia has been bad for the rainforest. Yet they also show just the opposite. Conflict caused deforestation, because trees were cleared in hotspots, while also showing that for decades prior the conflict did not cause deforestation at all. Yes, they simultaneously say conflict caused deforestation after saying the post-overthrow period caused deforestation. Then they acknowledge that as war ended and Colombia began to heal, people left farms to take jobs in cities and those cleared lands actually returned to nature.

Colombia needs time to heal and grow, not to be a political football for activists. Making rainforests a values issue is great posturing for elites in rich countries, but for people living there farming can mean the difference between life and death. 

They want to be able to have protests over taxes and free education the way everyone in cities do, not worry about if their kids will starve. They deserve that chance the same way academics in Oregon have it.